2013 Winning Essay

2013 A Nurse I Am Scholarship winners were asked to answer the following:

A. The movie "A Nurse I Am" provides a wealth of insights and approaches to be considered by future nurses, new nurses and seasoned nurses. According to Joyce Newman-Giger, "When nurses consider race, ethnicity, culture, and cultural heritage, they become more sensitive to clients.” Considering this statement, what two nurses in the film seem to best portray or consider the importance of culture in their approach to patient care? Explain why.

B. The United States thrives as an expanding multicultural pluralistic society. As a nurse, how and why will you step forward to offer culturally competent care?

Jennifer Wattles

University of Missouri - St. Louis

A Nurse I Am

The voices and interactions of Ardis, Mona, Bob, Angela, and others throughout both the documentary and the educational film, “A Nurse I Am,” grabbed me and wouldn’t let go – I wanted to see more of what they do and how they learned to do it so well. After watching the documentaries on these very special nurses, I am inspired to be a part of this world, intrigued by what I can learn from mentors and patients alike in regards to our similarities and differences, and I have a renewed commitment to pursue a career that will allow me to advocate for others on emotional, financial, cultural, and physical levels, as well as their patient care. As a nurse, and as an educator of the patient, I see it as my duty to be informed and educated about the variety of ethnicities, religions, heritages, and cultural practices I will encounter in our multicultural pluralistic society. This will be an ongoing life lesson, relating not only to cultural, ethnic, and religious experiences I expose myself to, but also the continuous engagement with multicultural patients and peers to better understand, relate, and offer culturally competent care.

I find this is what makes Mona Counts and Ardis Bush truly exceptional nurses and mentors to others. Mona Counts, who has quite an impressive list of initials after her name (PhD, CRNP, FNAP, FAANP, FAAN), is one of the most accepting, compassionate, and “tell it like it is” individuals I have ever come across. Her true mission, hands down, is patient care and patient advocacy in rural communities. She shows no judgment of her patients, their situations, or the cultural heritage of the small mining town in Pennsylvania where her clinic is; but a very realistic understanding of the socioeconomic status, cultural differences, and backgrounds of those in Mt. Morris and in the surrounding communities. I feel this understanding, along with the opening of her primary care clinic, allows her to provide the treatment her patients not only trust, but accept, and most importantly, participate in. Mona’s availability and willingness to provide house calls to see those that cannot or will not come into the clinic connects her to this community, a community she chooses to be an integral part of. She “walks the walk and talks the talk” as their friend, neighbor, community leader, and practitioner. She is their one and only advocate and treats each patient with respect and honesty, fostering a relationship of trust, along with the acceptance of needed healthcare by patients who would not seek it otherwise. Her encouragement of residents of Mt. Morris and the other medically underserved Appalachian areas to come into her clinic, regardless of health insurance or a means to pay for the care has undoubtedly saved countless lives and improved the health and well-being of thousands.

Ardis Bush has a gentle look, but a strong will and a determination that benefits her patients, no matter what their financial situation, personal beliefs, lifestyle choices, or cultural differences might be. Ardis’ understanding that the needs of each patient – medical, spiritual, physical, and emotional – are all equally important to the patient, which makes these patient needs a priority for her as well. I feel her continuous commitment to make sure her patients are aware of their rights for treatment and care, along with educating her nurses on understanding these rights, is empowering for patient advocacy. It is equally important to Ardis that the patients do not feel as if they are being judged and that their voice is heard and heeded, stating, “Patients will tell you what’s wrong, listen to their words” and “If a patient says they have pain – they have pain.” Her commitment to help her patients, whether it is fulfilling a dying patient’s wish to be baptized or advocating for her staff to be trained on vital early detection and lifesaving equipment, is critical in an inner-city hospital with a high number of uninsured patients who are often overlooked.

As Ardis Bush read her poem, “A Nurse I Am” at the end of the full length video, I sat with tears trickling down my cheeks, reflecting on the emotional journey these nurses undertake each day with the patients and families in their care, and how these lives are forever intertwined – no matter how long or fleeting the contact might be, or how their backgrounds and beliefs may be different – the words and actions of these patients and nurses leave a permanent impression on each other.

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